My mission as Minister for Agriculture and Food is to lead the sustainable development of a competitive, consumer focused agri-food sector and to contribute to a vibrant rural economy and society. In June 1999, to assist with the development of a future strategy for the sector I established the Agri-2010 committee to examine the challenges ahead and propose a future strategy for the sector. In response to its report I published the Agri-food 2010 – plan of action which contained 197 specific action points to achieve a dynamic agri-food sector which would form the basis of thriving rural communities.
The main instrument for the delivery of these strategies is the funding contained in the national development plan. A sum of €8.5 billion has been allocated over the period 2000-06 in actions that directly impact on rural areas. This includes provisions of €4.9 billion for measures such as REPS, compensatory allowances and the early retirement scheme in the CAP rural development plan and other measures in various operational programmes to improve research and development, productivity and market orientation in the agri-food sector.
Annual expenditure by my Department of approximately €2.9 billion is all used either directly or indirectly in support of agriculture which is the primary driving force in the development of rural areas. Of this €1.6 billion is in the form of direct payments which directly supports farm incomes and contributes to the viability of both full and part-time farms.